Outside lawyers working for former president Donald Trump drafted a letter for his signature that would have called for the seizure of “evidence” in service of the false claims of voter fraud he and his allies promoted in the days leading up to the 6 January insurrection, documents turned over to Congress show.
An entry on a four-page list of evidence that ex-New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik is refusing to turn over to the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the Capitol shows Mr Kerik is in possession of a document listed as a “draft POTUS letter,” meaning a draft letter from the President of the United States.
The draft document, which Mr Kerik is purporting to withhold under attorney-client privilege despite his not being an attorney, is further described as a “DRAFT LETTER FROM POTUS TO SEIZE EVIDENCE IN THE INTEREST OF NATIONAL SECURITY FOR THE 2020 ELECTIONS” dated 17 December 2020, more than a month after most news organisations called the 2020 race for President Joe Biden.
Unlike the other 26 documents described in the “withheld evidence log”, the document has no author, but the log states that it is being kept from the select committee because it was “drafted and/or edited by attorney”.
Several members of the motley crew that surrounded Mr Trump in the days after he became the first president to lose a reelection bid in nearly two decades reportedly pushed for him to use extralegal means to bolster the false claims of election fraud he and his allies made in the run-up to the worst attack on the Capitol since Major General Robert Ross ordered it burned in 1814.
A 36-page PowerPoint presentation that found its way into then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows’ email inbox laid out a scenario in which the US Marshals Service would have seized ballots in all 50 states for the purpose of a sham recount conducted by federalised National Guard soldiers.
That unprecedented proposal tracked with demands made in a post-election phone call from ex-Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn to Ezra Cohen, a former Flynn aide who was then serving as the acting undersecretary of defence for intelligence.
In Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show, author Jonathan Karl reported that Mr Flynn placed a call to Mr Cohen in late 2020 — just days after having received a presidential pardon from Mr Trump — to urge his former aide to immediately return to Washington from an official trip he was on.
“We need you,” Mr Flynn reportedly said before telling Mr Cohen that he would need to obtain signed orders to seize ballots and take “extraordinary measures…to stop Democrats from stealing the election”.
When the Defence Department official replied that the election was “over” and it was “time to move on”, Mr Flynn berated him for being a “quitter” and maintained that the election was “not over”.
In a letter to select committee chairman Bennie Thompson, Mr Kerik’s attorney Timothy Paratore claimed that Mr Kerik “was hired by former president Donald Trump’s legal team to act as an investigator tasked to look into claims of election fraud” and therefore can withhold documents from the committee because his work “was done at the behest of attorneys in anticipation of litigation” and is therefore “shielded from disclosure by the work-product doctrine”.
Mr Kerik, who is not licensed as a private investigator in either New York or Washington, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Independent.
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